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Amazon WorkSpaces now available offering Windows desktops from the cloud

27 Mar 2014
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Amazon has officially made available its Amazon WorkSpaces service, offering fully managed, cloud-based Windows desktops hosted on its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform and delivered via the internet. The service enables customers to access Windows applications for a monthly fee, from various devices including Apple's iPad.

Amazon is relatively late to the game with Amazon WorkSpaces, which was released as a limited preview during November 2013's AWS re:Invent conference, as many service providers have been offering hosted Windows desktops on a pay-as-you-go basis for several years.

However, as the largest public cloud operator, AWS may be a more acceptable proposition for many businesses that may have had concerns about outsourcing their desktop environment to a third party.

Announcing availability on the AWS blog, Amazon's chief evangelist for Amazon Web Services Jeff Barr said: "Amazon WorkSpaces provides a desktop computing environment in the cloud. It gives enterprise IT the power to meet the needs of a diverse user base by providing them with the ability to work wherever and whenever they want, while using the desktop or mobile device of their choice."

As with Amazon's other cloud services, customers have a range of options, with a basic WorkSpaces service bundle starting at $35 (£21) per month. For this price, the user gets a single virtual CPU with 3.75GB of memory, and 50GB storage.

For a higher fee of $50 (£30), users can get the same bundle but with Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and Trend Micro security tools pre-loaded, but Amazon enables customers to install their own software if they desire.

Like many other cloud-based desktop services, Amazon WorkSpaces is based on Windows Server 2008 R2, with user interface tweaks to deliver the same user experience as a Windows 7 desktop.

Users can access their desktop from a choice of endpoint devices, comprising Windows PC, Mac, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablet, delivered using Teradici's PC over IP (PCoIP) technology, which is also used by VMware in its Horizon View virtual desktop platform.

IT administrators need to have an AWS account in order to access the AWS Management console to provision and configure WorkSpaces for users, but the users only need the appropriate client software for their device.

Amazon WorkSpaces can also link to an organisation's Active Directory domain and use it for user authentication and workspace management, Amazon said.

As part of the launch, Amazon is also rolling out Amazon WorkSpaces Sync, which can be used to continuously back up user documents and data to Amazon's S3 cloud storage service. The documents can be accessed from a Sync client on existing client computer if necessary.

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Daniel Robinson

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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